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Erik Weihenmayer (born September 23, 1968) is an American athlete, adventurer, author, activist and motivational speaker, and the first person without sight to reach the summit of Mount Everest, on May 25, 2001. For this feat, he was honored with a Time magazine cover story. He also completed the Seven Summits in September 2002, joining 150 mountaineers at the time who had accomplished that feat, but as the only climber who was blind. In 2008, he also added the Carstensz Pyramid in West Papua New Guinea, the tallest peak in Australasia, thus completing the more respected Seventh Summit. Weihenmayer has also made noteworthy climbs up the Nose of El Capitan in Yosemite in 1996, and ascended Losar, a 2,700-foot (820 m) vertical ice face in the Himalayas in 2008.
Weihenmayer in Colorado, on Mount Sherman, a 14,000 ft. peak
|Alma mater||Weston High School|
|Occupation||Motivational speaker, Author, Actor|
|Known for||High Ground|
In 2005, he co-founded No Barriers, a nonprofit organization with the tagline, "What’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way." The organization helps people of diverse backgrounds and abilities to attack challenges head on, problem solve, build winning teams, and serve others.
In September 2014, Weihenmayer and blinded Navy veteran, Lonnie Bedwell, kayaked the entire 277 miles (446 km) of the Grand Canyon, considered one of the most formidable whitewater locations in the world.
Today, while still adventuring, he is a prominent worldwide speaker, focusing on the topic of living a "No Barriers Life."
Early life and educationEdit
Weihenmayer was born September 23, 1968, in Princeton, New Jersey. At 15 months old, he was diagnosed with juvenile retinoschisis, with blindness the expected outcome by age 13. At age 4, Weihenmayer and his family moved to Coral Gables, Florida, and, in 1975, to Hong Kong, where Erik attended the Hong Kong International School for grades 2-6. As he was going blind, Weihenmayer fought against using canes and learning Braille. He wanted to hang on to his life in the sighted world. Upon returning to America, Weihenmayer and his family settled in Connecticut, where he attended Weston High School. He eventually turned to wrestling and became a prominent force in high school, captaining his team and representing Connecticut in the National Junior Freestyle Wrestling Championship in Iowa.
At age 16, he started using a guide dog. He tried rock climbing, and found he was a natural at scrambling up a face using his hands and feet to find holds. Then he attended Boston College and graduated with a double major in English and Communications. He became a middle-school teacher at Phoenix Country Day School, where he met his fellow teacher and future wife, Ellie Reeves. He also coached wrestling in Phoenix.
Weihenmayer’s first big mountain was Denali, in 1995. In 2004, with Jeff Evans, Sabriye Tenberken and six blind Tibetan teenagers, he climbed on the north side of Everest to 21,500 feet, higher than any group of blind people have ever stood. A documentary based on the project, Blindsight, was released in 2006.
On May 25, 2001, Weihenmayer became the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest. For this feat, he was honored with a Time Magazine cover story. Of his Everest ascent, Time stated, "There is no way to put what Erik has done in perspective because no one has ever done anything like it. It is a unique achievement, one that in the truest sense pushes the limits of what man is capable of."
He also completed the Seven Summits in September 2002, joining 150 mountaineers at the time who had accomplished that feat, but as the only climber who was blind. In 2008, he also added Carstensz Pyramid in West Papua New Guinea, the tallest peak in Australasia, thus completing the more respected Seventh Summit.
Erik Weihenmayer has climbed rock and ice faces around the world. These include the first blind ascent of the 3,000-foot Nose of El Capitan in Yosemite, a difficult alpine climb of spectacular Alpamayo in Peru, and an ascent of a rarely-climbed 3,000-foot frozen waterfall in Nepal. He also climbed Mount Everest.
In September 2014, Erik and blinded Navy veteran, Lonnie Bedwell, kayaked the entire 277-miles of the Grand Canyon, considered one of the most formidable whitewater venues in the world.
In 2006, Erik created the Adventure Team Challenge, a first-of-its-kind adventure race in which teams of disabled and non-disabled athletes compete; his team won five years in a row. In 2010, he completed the Leadville 100 mountain bike race, with elevations all above 10,000 feet, on a tandem, once again becoming the first blind person to complete a world-class competition. And in 2011, Erik’s Team No Limits raced across the deserts and mountains of Morocco for a month, finishing in second place on the ABC reality show Expedition Impossible.
He has also completed the Primal Quest, an adventure race over 460 miles with 60,000 feet of elevation gain.
Philanthropy and No BarriersEdit
Erik has made it his life’s work to empower those who are marginalized and pushed to the sidelines to find purpose and fulfillment in their lives. In 2005, he co-founded No Barriers, a nonprofit organization with the tagline, “What’s within us is stronger than what’s in our way.” The organization helps people of diverse backgrounds and abilities develop a No Barriers Mindset - to attack challenges head on, problem solve, build winning teams, and serve others.
The signature event is the No Barriers Summit, bringing together science, technology, and innovation to engage attendees to tap into the human spirit, break through personal barriers, and create community and global breakthroughs. In 2010, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their Everest climb, Erik and his team created Soldiers To Summits, a program under No Barriers, to help veterans reclaim their lives by leading and serving again. On their first S2S expedition, Erik and his Everest team led ten injured soldiers to the summit of 20,000 foot Lobuche in the Himalayas. Since then, S2S has morphed into No Barriers Warriors, and has carried out expeditions from the Peruvian Andes, to the volcanoes of Ecuador, to California’s Mount Whitney.
In addition to being a world-famous adventurer and speaker, Weihenmayer is also the author of the book, Touch the Top of the World: A Blind Man's Journey to Climb Farther Than the Eye can See, which has been published in twelve countries and nine languages. Publisher’s Weekly described Weihenmayer’s memoir as “moving and adventure packed, Weihenmayer tells his extraordinary story with humor, honesty and vivid detail, and his fortitude and enthusiasm are deeply inspiring.” The book was made into an A&E movie and released on DVD by Sony.
Weihenmayer’s second book, The Adversity Advantage: Turning Everyday Struggles Into Everyday Greatness, shares hard-earned lessons and practical advice for using adversity as fuel for growth and innovation. Steven Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, stated, “This book led me to look carefully at myself with an awareness of how the challenges of my life can be the fuel that will enable me to swim against the stream, against cultural currents, against all forms of adversity inherent in my most important goals.”
Weihenmayer’s latest release, No Barriers: A Blind Man's Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon, was published in 2017. The book is Weihenmayer's second memoir, and chronicles his groundbreaking descent of the Grand Canyon. No Barriers is for those who dream big yet have become stuck along the way. It shines a light on the process of growth and change and illuminates the surprising ways people break into the current, where life happens. Kirkus Reviews, a leading literary trade magazine, recently wrote: "Weihenmayer presents an exhilarating adventure story of arduous mountain climbing and whitewater kayaking, but he also offers broader life lessons. A wonderful tribute to the greatness of the human spirit."
Media and film appearancesEdit
Erik’s adventures have earned him dozens of awards, recognitions, and TV interviews. He's received the ESPY, Nike’s Casey Martin award, and the Helen Keller Lifetime Achievement award. He's appeared on NBC’s Today Show and Nightly News, Oprah, Good Morning America, Nightline, and the Tonight Show. He was featured on the cover of Time, Outside, and Climbing magazines. Erik has also carried torches for both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games.
Farther Than the Eye Can See, the documentary of his Everest ascent, is ranked by Men’s Journal as one of the top 20 adventure films of all time. The film won first prize at 21 international film festivals and was nominated for two Emmy awards. In 2004, Erik and six Everest team members trained a group of blind Tibetan students and then lead them to 22,000 feet on the north side of Everest. Blindsight, the documentary of the ascent, won People’s Choice Awards at the Los Angeles, London, and Berlin Film Festivals, and was released in theaters in 2007 to major accolades from film critics.
Most recently, Erik was featured in the 2012 award-winning film, High Ground. This film documents a team of injured veterans; led by Erik and his Everest team, as they embark on a Himalayan climbing expedition, and along the trail, struggle to heal mentally and spiritually from the devastating wounds of war.
In 2017, Weihenmayer was named one of "The 25 Most Adventurous Men of the Past 25 Years" by Men's Journal.
Weihenmayer is one of the most sought after motivational speakers in the world, having addressed some of the world's leading companies, including Allstate, Proofpoint, Apple, Wells Fargo, Prudential, Google, Microsoft, Pepsi-Co, AT&T, and more.
Weihenmayer's corporate message focuses on the topics of adversity and living a "No Barriers Life," weaving narrative and inspiration together to deliver a compelling message. His talks resonate with everyone from graduating college students, to large sales teams, and the top management of Fortune 500 companies.
Weihenmayer’s speaking career has taken him around the globe, from the 2005 APEC Summit in Chile to the 2009 Presidential Inaugural celebration in Washington DC. In the past decade, he has delivered his message to major companies in London, Dublin, Moscow, Berlin, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Abu Dhabi as well as across the United States. He has shared speaking platforms with luminaries such as Secretary Colin Powell, Vice President Al Gore, and Prime Minister Tony Blair.
- Weihenmayer, Erik, Touch the Top of the World: A Blind Man's Journey to Climb Farther Than the Eye can See, Plume, 2002, ISBN 0-452-28294-2, ISBN 978-0-452-28294-0
- Weihenmayer, Erik & Stoltz, Paul, The Adversity Advantage: Turning Everyday Struggles into Everyday Greatness, Touchstone, 2006, ISBN 0-7432-9022-4, ISBN 978-0-7432-9022-7
- Weihenmayer, Erik, No Barriers: A Blind Man's Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon, with St. Martin's Press, 2017, ISBN 9781250088789, ISBN 9781250088796
- Receives Honorary Doctorate Degree on 16 May 2009 from the FW Olin School of Business at the Babson College MA
- Blind American Scales Mount Everest
- "Blind Climber, 64-Year-Old Reach the Everest Summit". Los Angeles Times. May 26, 2001.
- Hemispheres, Levy, Buddy. Blind Ambition - Hemispheres Inflight Magazine. Hemispheres Inflight Magazine RSS. United Hemispheres Magazine, 1 Dec. 2013. Web. 2 May 2014.  Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine.
- Outside Article. Ross, Tracy . "Blind Kayaker Erik Weihenmayer's Quest to Run the Grand." Outside Online. Outside Magazine, 9 July 2013. Web. 2 May 2014. .